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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I'm Running | Wednesday of Holy Week 2020


Running is not for me. In high school PE I'd run because I had too, but not with any particular effort. When the weather was nice and we used the track, I preferred to hang back and walk with a classmate, chatting about whatever and enjoying the sun and fresh air. Many years later I decided to lose weight, and as part of that I jogged every morning at 5pm for a few months. It was a dreadful experience, but I got the weight off. Before that I'd always said I'd only run if something really bad was coming after me, and since I reasoned that death often accompanies poor diet and lack of exercise, that was scary enough to get me going.

A reading for this Wednesday of Holy Week offers an analogy of running, though with a goal in mind. The author, who is truly anonymous for the Book of Hebrews, is writing about the life of a disciple pursuing holiness. The verses come directly after a chapter all about the saints of old, like Abraham and the various prophets, who overcame obstacles, won victories, died by torture, and participated in miracles. It is to this life that the writer is calling the reader.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
The runners are challenged to throw off anything that weighs them down. The mention of 'sin' may seem archaic to the modern reader. Knowing this, if you ever go to a conservative evangelical mega church (not recommended) you'll hear their preachers talking more about 'brokenness.' They mean sin.

What I take from this is that in our struggle to become better versions of ourselves, we can't hurt other people in the process, since the only real sin is doing needless harm to others. Please note that some self-harm, and while that also shouldn't be, it's a pathology that requires professional counseling and treatment.* Additionally, we need to resolve any addictions or other issues we have as part of this process.
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
That is delayed satisfaction. Short term pain for long term gain. Here, Jesus is described as knowing that there would be a victory on the other side of a humiliating, painful death, and he went threw it with head held high. How accurate that may be aside, it certainly describes some far less dramatic but significant moments in my life, when I've gone through a trial with faith that something better was on the other side. I spent 14 months away from my family on one occasion to give them a better life, and then I did it again for another 6 months for the same reason. That wasn't fun. There have been numerous such experiences in my life, including prolonged confrontations, struggles to carve a way for others, times of focused study, and even a massive career change. Through it, I've discovered my strength, my courage, and my endurance.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Having an example helps. For a long time that was Jesus for me, but there are real live people I've known that have showed me the way of dignity in difficulty. My parents, both together and individually, are among them. The thing is, we have to be careful not to idolize anyone, because we'll only end up disappointed. We can still learn from one another, faults included. We should.

I know the race I'm running. It's not the same as yours. Maybe you haven't given it any thought. Perhaps you have but think of it as a New Years thing. I, for one, believe that everyone has the right to reinvent themselves, so long as they keep covenant with the people who they love and who love them. Every day is an opportunity to cast off what hinders us, and take a chance on ourselves. Whatever that means for you, why not take it?

*If you ever want help because you think you might hurt yourself, please call the Trevor Lifeline – it’s available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386. If you're considering suicide, please give yourself a few more chances, and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.